Sports and Physical Activity are Important for Brain Development and Academic Performance

Aristotle had sports day a couple of weeks back. Hubby and I attended to cheer our son on. Although I have always known that sports was not my son’s forte (nor a favourite activity of his for that matter), I confess I was entirely unprepared for what I saw. I think it would have been a compliment to say that my son throws like a girl because even the girl he likes at school could throw better than him and she is the epitome of the stereotypical Asian girl in sports. While I cringed with Aristotle’s every attempt to throw the ball, hubby seemed to think that the real issue at hand is that Aristotle just can’t be bothered – but more about this bit later…

Most Asian parents don’t really care about sports – at least mine didn’t. As long as their kids come home with good results on their report cards for all the subjects that matter, they could be failing PE for all the parents are concerned. However, even if your child isn’t intending to make a career in sports, there are many reasons why you should be concerned about their poor PE results. Aside from that, there is also much value in sports for our children’s development and that alone should be reason enough to take it more seriously.

Some of the benefits of sports:

  • Emotional wellbeing – develops confidence, self-esteem, self-concept; provides sense of belonging, opportunity to achieve; improves quality of sleep; allows self expression.
  • Health – encourages healthy growth and development; develops coordination and balance; reduces risk of obesity and other related diseases.
  • Mental health – improves concentration, and stress and anxiety management.
  • Social skills – encourages cooperation and teamwork; develops friendship and integration.
  • Learning and productivity – develops motivation and improves learning outcomes.
  • Positive school environment – reduces aggression and disciplinary issues.
  • Reduction in anti-social behaviour – reduces likelihood of smoking, illicit drug use and criminal activity.

Probably more interesting is the effect of sports on brain development. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that right brain education is a pet subject of mine so I found it particularly interesting to read that “athletes… emitted stronger alpha waves“. Just in case you are unfamiliar, the first part of right brain education involves getting the brain consciousness into alpha – which is, to put it simply, a state of enhanced creativity and ability.

Some time back, I was exploring how to get the brain to think faster, particularly when there are a lot of environmental disturbances. It turns out that being trained in sports helps athletes to achieve better results when placed in distracting situations. The increased efficiency of their brains allowed them to filter out those distractions and focus on the task at hand – in other words, increased concentration.

sportsWhat does sports do for your child’s academic performance?

An examination of studies found:

  • positive link between physical activity and academic performance – children achieved higher grades
  • positive correlation between sports performance and academic ability (so you should be concerned about your child’s “F” in PE)

In particular:

  • physical activity improves concentration, attention, and cognitive control
  • a 10 minute energiser session beginning each day of the school week improved on-task behaviour
  • acute bouts of physical activity exert short term benefits on cognitive functioning

For more details on the studies and results, you should read the article.

“Sport has the power to unite people in a way little else can. Sport can create hope. Breaks down racial barriers… laughs in the face of discrimination and speaks to people in a language they can understand.” – Nelson Mandela



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